After great hype, the media finally will get its first glimpse of the 2017 New England Patriots on the practice field this week.
Patriots organized team activities began earlier this week, and the first practice open to the media is Thursday. Most of the focus will be on skill-position players, rather than those in the trenches, because there’s no hitting allowed during the offseason workout period.
Here are the offensive players we’ll be keeping a close eye on this spring:
QB JACOBY BRISSETT
The progress Brissett shows this spring and summer could dictate whether the Patriots are willing to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo (or Tom Brady?) after the 2017 season.
Brissett should have a much better grasp of the offensive playbook during OTAs and minicamp than he had last year, and that should improve his play in practice.
It’s tough being compared to Brady and Garoppolo by sharing the field with them and taking third-team reps, but Brissett showed poise as a rookie. Now, he must go through his reads more quickly and show improved accuracy as Garoppolo did after his first offseason.
If he does? He could be second-string next season. If he doesn’t? He could potentially be on the chopping block.
RB REX BURKHEAD
OTAs aren’t a great time to watch running backs because there’s no pads and no contact. But we’ll see if the Patriots have plans for Burkhead beyond lining him up in the backfield.
Burkhead showed promise as a receiver in Cincinnati. He must do something to set himself apart from the Patriots’ crowded stable of running backs, and splitting out at receiver would do just that.
WR BRANDIN COOKS
It’s simply going to be fun to watch Cooks and Brady in the same offense this spring. It might not be so fun for Patriots defensive backs, however.
During two joint practice sessions and two preseason games, Cooks, then a member of the New Orleans Saints, has gotten the best of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler. We’ll see if Cooks can continue to dominate the Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.
TE JACOB HOLLISTER
The Patriots have a third tight end role up for grabs this spring and summer behind Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen, and Hollister, an undrafted free agent, will try to grab that brass ring. He showed off impressive athleticism during his time at Wyoming and should be able to shine in the passing-camp setting.
Hollister has big-play potential, which could pose problems for Patriots safeties and linebackers in practice.
TE JAMES O’SHAUGHNESSY
O’Shaughnessy is another athletic tight end trying to crack the Patriots’ 53-man roster. He caught just eight passes for 86 yards in limited offensive snaps in two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he has the size, speed and agility to do more in the Patriots’ offense.
Thumbnail photo via Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports Images